-- the final poem in the Feast of Memory series, offered before a yama-sesshin (mountain retreat, literally "touching the heart-mind in the mountains") 



Like the samurai of old,

who were asked to leave their swords outside the teahouse

but who sometimes snuck a small blade in their sleeve just in case,

when I've hunched over paper to write poetry in the past

I have always bowed low at the door

but entered halfway-armed nonetheless...


...until now.


Now, there is nothing left to protect.

No defensible ground.

No formulation. 

No strategy.

No armor.

No thoughts of gain or loss.

No impulse toward joining-up.

No encapsulated heart.


How is one expected to function

in the wide, wild, spinning world

when one's own soul has been spread across the cosmos

like shards of sparkling broken glass left over from a lover's quarrel?


An aching voice at midnight whispers:

"It involves the search for a cosmic medicine."

No Saving Face

As if trying to find my way through a blinding rain, 

I've stumbled upon another strand of days

where I no longer recognize my own face.

This heart-mind has become nothing but a river in time.


And my face.

My own face

is not the one I remember from lives before,

or even from within this one;

nor my hands, nor my feet, nor my step, nor my gate.

The days feel like slogging through The Swamplands again.

Their hothouse churnings cause me to ponder notions of fate.


In brief moments in-between,

I pick up the old scent trail of forest-kami again.

They stand as a constant presence at the edge of the worlds.

Ever and ever they ask the questions: 

"What medicine do you need?

What medicine is needed by these times?

What medicine are you?"

Paying Homage at the Ruins

The old forms are crumbling inside and out.

In our shared anxiety, we can build walls or pick up swords,

but soon we will find that we lose even the will to raise our own arms.


I'm not interested in loud marches.

I walked through the pine forests and magnolia groves

with the gentle buddha from Plum Village.

He barely said a word.

All that was imparted was through his footfalls,

and his care-filled eyes.


If people need to raise their fists and yell,

and set themselves ablaze in protest,

I understand;

but his will be the inner revolution

that lasts another...two-thousand years.

The Wearing Away, and the Worn

As the gate of the next moon starts to open,

and we all step through whether we want to or not,

the humidity of my own Night-Jungle-Wandering-Body

starts to wonder if I'll ever find what they call a Purpose Driven Life.

Perhaps something will coalesce. 

Or, perhaps, I am nothing but a piece of sea glass

worn, and worn, and worn down some more,

left-over from a prayer I put into a bottle long ago.

(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com

sound: The Graceful Sky / Cavern of Sirens / Steve Roach & vidnaObmana

Liner Notes:

norito (Japanese): a liturgical text or incantation in the Shinto tradition, usually addressed to a kami. Kami are the spirits worshipped in Shinto tradition. They can be elements of landscape, forces of nature, the spirits of venerated dead, as well as other unseen beings and the qualities these beings emanate.